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Good Kill
  • Composed by Christophe Beck
  • Lakeshore Records / 2015 / 40m

A gritty drama directed by Andrew Niccol, Good Kill is a topical film looking at the morality of the current US policy of drone attacks and in particular the effect on one of the “pilots”, who questions whether what he is doing is right.  Niccol has been eclectic in his use of composers over the years and for this, his sixth film, he hired his fifth composer in the form of the prolific and chameleonic Christophe Beck, who has been around for a long while now but I would argue is yet to really establish a particular signature style, seemingly able to adapt himself fundamentally to serve the needs of whatever film he’s working on.  Inevitably, for this film he has written a tense score, often agitated and uncomfortable but not oppressively bleak.

There is an orchestra here but ironically it is often used simply to provide ambience (though there are exceptions, like the unshackled strings of “Joy Ride”), keyboards and electric guitar taking the lead.  In some cues an ethnic wind sound (sometimes synthesised) gives a touch of colour and adds a certain beauty but the music is frequently unmelodic.  Synth percussion plays a part, though perhaps (and mercifully) not quite as much as you might expect in a modern score for a film like this.  Everything in the score is very well done: there is a psychological quality to the darkness which is compelling.  I can imagine it working wonders in the film.  There are moments of stark beauty which mean the 40-minute album is not one long piece of misery as perhaps may have been expected; there’s even a mellow side to some of them, which is so surprising in the context of the score it is all the more effective (and there is a somewhat sweeping finale, “Five Miles Away”, which provides a very satisfying emotional payoff).  While some of the suspense is of a more urgent nature, there are no big thrills here; and the general darkness certainly makes it an album I doubt many will listen to with great regularity.  It’s an impressive execution of a vision, very tense but ultimately with some rewards if you give it a chance.

Rating: *** | |

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